Tyler Tadevic has done everything from mopping shop floors to owning an IndyCar team in his remarkable career in racing. Today he owns the TruSpeed Autosport operation that fields cars across various levels of sports car racing, including a full season Pirelli World Challenge GTA entry for Parker Chase.
This week on the Pirelli Paddock Pass, Tadevic recounts how he got his start in motorsports and the winding road he has taken to get to this point.
Where did your interest in motorsports come from?
“Since I was a little kid I had a go-kart that I spent a lot of time working on.
“I’ve always been very interested and intrigued with anything that has an engine and tires, and motor racing in particular. I always meant to pursue it after high school and after college.
“My plan was to get a good, high-paying job so I could afford to go racing. At about 24 years old I just couldn’t take it any more.
“I sold my house, threw all of my stuff in storage or in my van, and moved to California.
“I finally got hired by a team up at Sonoma as the guy who scraped stickers off trailers, mounted tires, and mopped the floor.
“After I got the job I was running out the front door and the team owner said: hang on, don’t you want to know what we’re going to pay you?
“It didn’t make any difference to me, I was so stoked to have a job. From there I moved to being the truck driver, then the number two mechanic, then the number one mechanic and team manager.”
How did you end up as a team owner in open-wheel racing?
“I managed the World Speed Toyota Atlantic team and met Alex Figge and his dad. In October of 2002 we founded Pacific Coast Motorsports. I owned that in conjunction with Alex.
“In 2003 we ran one Atlantic car, in 2004 we ran two Atlantic cars and won the championship with Jon Fogarty. We transitioned in 2005 to a GT1 Corvette and ran that program for a year. In 2006 we transitioned again to Grand-Am with a Daytona Prototype plus a Pontiac GTO.
“Then Mr. Figge ran into Kevin Kalkhoven over the summertime and into the fall of 2006 and Kevin talked him into going ChampCar racing.
“We bought four chassis, eight motors, 20 sets of shocks, fueling rigs and everything. That was in 2007. After 2007, of course, ChampCar failed so we attempted to make the transition into IndyCar.
“At that time, Alex wasn’t interested in driving on ovals so I assumed a bunch of debt that the team had from the previous season, mortgaged my house, and pulled together every loan I could possibly get and effectively bought a full stake in the team.
“We made eight races that year with Mario Dominguez but got bumped from the Indy 500.
“We had a crash in practice before qualifying on Saturday and did about a quarter of a million dollars in damage, but made the field on bump day before getting bumped out by Buddy Lazier.
“We got back out to try to get back in the field just before the gun went off at the end of the day and the first two laps were fast enough but then he lost it and totaled the car.
“That’s the way my Indy 500 ended: a car in the wall and a half a million dollars in debt that I wasn’t planning for.
“We made it about eight more races and then I ended up having to file bankruptcy. I lost my house, my cars, my trucks, everything.”
After spending time as a fuel cell salesman after PCM shut down, how did you manage to get back into team ownership?
“I found TruSpeed through a mutual friend. I have a CDL from being a truck driver back in the day.
“I have to thank Rob Morgan, the owner of TruSpeed, who let me drive the RV to St. Pete for them. We ran Pat Long that year and I was the RV driver and helped manage the team at St. Pete and again at Long Beach.
“On Saturday at Long Beach, they offered me the general manager job. We won the championship that year and had a great year, and fast forward a couple of years Rob had had enough.
“I purchased the team in June of 2013 and have been at the head of it ever since. The truth of the matter is I’m not a wealthy man by any stretch of the imagination, and there’s a group of guys who help to make it possible.
“The Chase family in particular have been really instrumental and all of our sponsors. World Challenge is the halo program for the operation and I’m so pleased to be back in the series.
“It’s the best value of racing in the planet. I’m so, so stoked to be back out there racing in World Challenge.”